Step 3: Get Involved
Working Together for Safety
- If an employer knows about a hazard and doesn’t try to eliminate or reduce it, or make sure the workers are told about it and how to deal with it, that employer is not doing what the law requires
- If a supervisor knows about a hazard and doesn't explain to the workers how to deal with it, that supervisor is not doing what the law requires
- If a worker knows about a hazard and doesn’t report it to the supervisor or the employer, that worker is not doing what the law requires
If you see a hazard on the job, you have a duty to speak up ...
- This includes reporting equipment that isn’t working right, and any other hazards that may be present as a result of not following the OHSA or Regulations
It’s important that you report to your supervisor or employer any injury, incident, or close call, so that they can prevent those kinds of things from happening again in the future.
The Right to Participate
The OHSA gives you the right to participate and get involved in keeping your workplace safe and healthy. There are many ways you can do this, can you think of three?
Here are a few good ways to get involved in keeping your workplace safe, but there are many more ...
- You can ask questions when you’re not sure about something
- You can help your Health and Safety Representative or joint health and safety committee with health and safety inspections by pointing out possible hazards in your workplace
- You can take your health and safety training seriously and put what you learn into practice in your job
Health & Safety Representatives and Joint Health & Safety Committee
The OHSA says that workplaces with 6 to 19 workers need to have a health and safety representative or a joint health and safety committee. In most larger workplaces with 20 or more workers, the OHSA says that a joint health and safety committee has to be set up, committees have to have at least 2 people on them. The workers or their union, if any, pick one of them and the employer picks the other. In workplaces where there are 50 or more workers, the committee must have at least 4 members, and at least ½ of the members have to represent workers.
The committee plays an important role in helping to keep the workplace safe. A member of the committee who represents workers must regularly inspect the workplace. Information from these inspections is brought back to the committee and the committee has to respond to these recommendations within a short period of time. Because there is an employer and a worker member of the committee, everyone has a say in identifying and solving problems.
In smaller workplaces, the health and safety representative has many of the same roles as the committee, they help to improve health and safety at work by inspecting the workplace often. If they find a problem, they make recommendations to the employer about how to fix it.
What to Look For & What to Ask
The OHSA says that your employer must post the OHSA and other health and safety information in your workplace, such as an occupational health and safety poster. Look for the posted names of your health and safety representatives or joint health and safety committee members – these are people you can talk to if you need help. If your workplace has more than 5 workers, your employer has to post the company health and safety policy. If you can’t find any of this information in your workplace, talk to your supervisor about it, health and safety is an important part of his/her job, you can also talk to the people you work with and benefit from each other’s experiences.
Always be on the lookout for hazards to yourself or others. Prevention starts here, by paying attention to details and by following the OHSA and the workplace health and safety procedures.
You Are NOT Alone
It’s a sad fact that in some workplaces nobody pays much attention to safety. In those workplaces, it’s all about doing the work as quickly as possible. If someone questions the way things are being done, they may get a dirty look but nothing is done to make it safer. People in workplaces like that are often afraid to do anything about it because they don’t want to get fired. Maybe you felt that way on a past job. That’s why it’s important to know that you are not alone. Help is always available from outside the workplace.
If you see something unsafe that could hurt someone, you need to report it to your supervisor or your employer, it’s also a good idea to tell your health and safety representative or committee if there is one. But if the employer or supervisor doesn’t fix the problem, you can call the Ministry of Labour, the ministry’s job is to help prevent workplace injuries and illnesses through enforcing the OHSA – They want to know if there are problems that aren’t being fixed.
Ministry of Labour inspectors can’t be in all workplaces at all times, but, the Ministry wants to hear if there’s a problem on the job that isn’t fixed anywhere in Ontario. So it has a toll-free number that you can call. Calling the number connects you to the Health and Safety Contact Center that takes calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you don’t want to give your name when you call the Health and Safety Contact Center, you don’t have to. The number is 1-877-202-0008.
Remember when we mentioned reprisals before? It’s against the law for your employer or supervisor to fire or punish you for doing what the OHSA expects you to do, or because you asked them to do what the OHSA expects them to do. It’s even against the law for your employer or supervisor to threaten to fire or punish you for these things. The OHSA is very clear on this. If you feel that your employer is taking action against you for raising a health and safety concern you can discuss it with a union official (if you are member of a union) or bring a complaint to the Ontario Labour Relations Board. If you’re not sure what to do, you can call the ministry’s toll-free number for information. The office of the Worker Adviser also provides free advice and representation to non-unionized workers who are in this situation. You can call their toll free number for help – 1-877-659-7744.
The Right to Refuse Unsafe Work
If you have reason to believe that the work you are doing or the equipment you are using might hurt you or someone you work with, you can refuse to do that work. This means that you tell your employer or supervisor (and health and safety representative or committee) that you think you are in danger and you are not going to do the work, you need to tell them why.
All workers have the right to refuse if they have a reason to believe it’s dangerous. It’s important to know that you can also refuse work if you have reason to believe that the area where you are working is likely to endanger you or another worker, or that you are in danger form workplace violence.
Most of the time your supervisor or employer and your safety representative or committee member will be able to solve the problem. If the problem isn’t fixed or you still have reason to believe the work is unsafe, you can continue to refuse the work – a Ministry of Labour inspector will then be called in to investigate.
Some workers, such as nurses, firefighters and police officers, cannot refuse work if the danger is a normal part of their job or if refusing work would put someone else in danger. Talk to your union, other workplace representative, supervisors or employer if you think your right to refuse work may be limited by the work you do.
More Information & Resources
Ontario has a Health & Safety “System” which includes the following partners:
Ministry of Labour:
- Develops, communicates and enforces occupational health and safety requirements and implements standards
- Develops, coordinates and implements strategies to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses and can set standards for health and safety training
Contact Information: 1-877-202-0008 or www.labour.gov.on.ca
Workers Health & Safety Center
- An occupational health and safety training center for workers, representatives and employers
Contact Information: 1-888-869-7950 or www.whsc.on.ca
Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers
- 6 medical clinics located across Ontario that provide occupational health services and information
Contact Information: 1-877-817-0336 or www.ohcow.on.ca
Health & Safety Ontario
- 4 health and safety associations that provide sector specific consulting, training, products, and services
Contact Information: www.healthandsafetyontario.ca
Infrastructure Health & Safety Association
- Serves electrical, construction & transportation sectors
Contact Information: 1-800-263-5024
Public Services Health & Safety Association
- Serves health, education, and municipal sectors
Contact Information: 1-877-250-7444
Workplace Safety North
- Serves mining, pulp and paper, and forestry sectors
Contact Information: 1-888-730-7821
Workplace Safety and Prevention Services
- Serves industrial, farming, and service sectors
Contact Information: 1-877-494-9777
Workplace Safety & Insurance Board
- Administers Ontario’s no-fault workplace insurance for employers and their workers
Contact Information: 1-800-387-0750 www.wsib.on.ca
Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety
- They have information and fact sheets on their website
If you are having trouble finding information, you can ask questions by telephone at 1-800-668-4284 or through their website www.ccohs.ca